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A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: If you build a good library, crowds will not be far away! 

27mindaviews sojourners

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 04 September) — The City Government of Davao City has recently offered its citizenry a long-delayed gift, namely constructing a fabulous five-storey City Library and Information Center (DCLIC)!

Located in the very heart of this urban center along 203 C. Bangoy (in front of the Aboitiz headquarters), it is accessible from various parts of the city (although Bangoy St. being a one-way street, one can only enter from the north).

From its website, we are informed that Davao City Library and Information Center envisions itself “to be an excellent public library promoting literacy and fostering lifelong learning towards producing a more inspired, empowered and connected diverse community.”

Its mission is to be committed to “support the literacy program of the City Government and the National Library of the Philippines through innovative programs and services and its main goal is to make library services responsive to the needs of the 21st century clients and provide innovative library programs that will serve the Davao City community.”

This library’s history goes back to even before WWII. Way back when it was founded in 1938, it was housed in a private building along Magallanes Street. Its collection of books, furniture and equipment improved when the USIS Library donated all these to the City Library when it got closed in 1957. It was only in 1965, when the City Council established the City Library as a separate office of the City Government of Davao and provided a budget to hire personnel. Years later, in 1997, the City Library was transferred to a more client-friendly set-up and more functional facilities conducive for study and learning at the 3rd floor of the Sangguniang Panlungsod Building. On July 15 this year, it finally was given its proper home.

Towards fulfilling its role to provide for the general public’s education and literacy, this Center provides countless resources, such as educational materials, scientific publications, and are available on face-to-face basis. However, efforts are being made to integrate e-learning to its services. It has set itself a rather ambitious task, namely, “to promote the intellectual well-being of the people; elevate the literacy level of Davaoeños to the end that illiteracy is eradicated and recognize the vital role of knowledge and information of the locale.” One can only hope the staff are provided enough support to reach this end in the next decades.

Photo from the website of the Davao City Library and Information Center

Open only from Monday to Friday, its official hours cover 7 AM to 7 PM. The DCLIC head Sandy Enoc indicated there is growing clamor to make the city library open 24/7 but they have yet to conduct another survey if this is favorable to the general public. One can easily enter the premises and for now the QR requirement has been suspended. For the moment, the growing clamor is because the citizenry knows how important a library is. The great scientist, Albert Einstein once was quoted as saying that “the only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.”

To be able to borrow books, one has to register and secure a library card (P100 for residents and P30 for non-residents, valid for one year). One can already imagine the lines forming to secure a library card. We can easily resonate with the words of Libba Bray (the American writer of young adult novels): “The library card is a passport to wonders and miracles, glimpses into other lives, religions, experiences, the hopes and dreams and strivings of ALL human beings, and it is this passport that opens our eyes and hearts to the world beyond our front doors, that is one of our best hopes against tyranny, xenophobia, hopelessness, despair, anarchy, and ignorance.”

For the moment, the DCLIC can only cater to anyone 7 years old and above.  Chldren under 7 years old are still not welcome for various reasons, including available facilities. On the ground floor are periodicals which include newspapers, and magazines. Up on the second floor are the readers’ amphitheatre and children’s section and here, one finds school textbooks, comics, children’s books, and religious texts, among others. There is also a TV flatscreen for film showing use.  The third floor is an area for formal reading meant for learners, students and those who are reviewing for exams. Here is where one finds the Dabawenyo Corner and the Filipiniana. Unfortunately, Mindanao books – which should have their own place – are integrated with the Filipiniana 

The fourth floor is occupied by the Davao City Call Center, by IT facilities. The free one-hour IT access is only for those with PVC ID. If one needs more time or do not have a PVC ID, they accept PHP 8 for IT usage and added hours. They have 21 desktops available for use and you can even request a webcam if you need one for a Zoom meeting.  Apart from the IT room is the library’s conference or audio-visual room which is available for whole-day rental for PHP 2,000. 

On the roof deck, there is an organic urban garden. Murals and artworks (some done by Bong Perez) are prominently displayed on various walls.

Among the 40 or so staff of DCLIC are the City Librarian (Ms. Salome Enoc) and those constituting the Administrative, Technical, Readers and Extension Services. Those in the Extension Services look after their out-reach services to the Toril, Bunawan, Tugbok and Calinan Districts as well as the reading centers located in Marahan, Daliao, Buda and Baguio. 

On any day, the DCLIC can accommodate a maximum capacity of 250 at any given time. Since it opened, it has had no problem filling up all the seats inside the library. In fact, when the crowds swell, they had to refuse entry. 

Why does it have a drawing power? It could be for a number of reasons: its central location, the fabulous design of the building and the maximum comfort when one is inside, its book collection for the moment seems adequate (except for Dabawenyo and Mindanao books), the friendly staffmembers who do exert effort to welcome guests, word-of-mouth feedback since it opened, and easy access. Or they are beginning to see that this is a good library. 

As R. David Lankes (a Professor and Dean’s Scholar for New Librarianship in Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies) said: “Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, great libraries build communities.”

In the 1989 film, Field of Dreams, the main character spoke this line which has since gone viral: “If you build it, they will come!” 

In an age, when libraries have become unattractive to the general public, especially the youth, and are struggling to make sure there are readers who take advantage of its collection of books, the DCLIC is proving to be an exception! 

Everyday, there are crowds out there, making sure to be able to enter its halls and enjoy its services. This phenomenon clearly shows that Davao City has a reading public eager to take advantage of this city’s library services. It should prove to other urban centers in Mindanao, that all cities and big towns should aim to build their own libraries but to make sure it has the quality like the DPLIC that can draw crowds. 

Perhaps it is still too early to conclude that there will always be crowds in the years to come, but for the moment, our readers are convinced that – in the words of the author Sidney Sheldon – “Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life.”

[MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is a professor at St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute in Davao City and until recently, a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. Gaspar is Mindanao’s most prolific book author. He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English (A Sojourner’s Views) and the other in Binisaya (Panaw-Lantaw). He is a Datu Bago awardee, the highest honor the Davao City government bestows on its constituents.]

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